High school seniors no longer want to graduate with only a cookie-cutter yearbook picture as their legacy.
Listening to teens’ ideas is also vital. As photographer Tammy Swales points out: “Kids are more vocal and involved than they have been in the past. This generation of kids is media savvy. They are oversaturated with visual ideas, and I think that impacts what they want out of their images.”
Trends in music videos, movies, TV, fashion, advertising and magazine editorials all contribute to what seniors want from their portraits these days. Guys want to look like rock stars or pro athletes. Not surprisingly, girls tend to be fashion oriented, want to look beautiful (of course) and often cite America’s Next Top Model as one of their favorite TV shows. Jonathan Brown and Rosemary Cundiff-Brown of Monarch Photography even say ANTM has been helpful “because it’s easy to draw from that and explain things like an S-curve in posing, or ‘Smile with your eyes.’”
The Browns note that seniors want edgy, editorial shots, like the ones they see in magazines and advertisements for popular brands like Abercrombie and Fitch and American Eagle. When Swales noticed that Teen Vogue used a lot of group poses in their editorials, she incorporated groups (seniors and their friends) into her work to the delight of her clients. She also pushed the envelope, with great success, by using motifs and styling from The Twilight Saga movie series as the basis for a recent shoot with her senior models. As Mike and Heather Krakora of Krakora Studios say, “The trends in popular culture are going to drive the trends for senior portraits,” but knowing how quickly those change, it’s critical for photographers to stay current with what’s going on.
Naturally, it’s important to please parents and grandparents too, so most seniorportrait photographers do take at least some traditional studio shots. While photographers expect kids to bring their favorite trendy outfits, they also ask them to bring one set of clothing that won’t look dated in 20 years so they can shoot a classic portrait for the family. More often the seniors prefer to be photographed on location. Tammie and Chris Billey of Largo Photography say, to satisfy everyone, “We’ll create a natural look for the parents and high fashion for our seniors.”
For location shots, gritty urban settings are popular, report the Krakoras, who add that “a really big trend is to contrast what they’re wearing and the location — girls dressed up, as if for a fashion editorial shoot, but in a location like railroad tracks or a field.” Photographers like the Haynes, with their beachfront studio, find that many seniors want to mix it up and shoot some of their portraits on the beach and others in a nearby urban setting.
Interestingly, though, a few photographers note that studio work will become more prevalent in the near future. They’ll go “back to the basics of studio pro work,” says photographer and educator Ron Kramer of House of Photography and Portranet, “but with fresh, contemporary [editorial] styles.” The Browns also expect to do more studio work, explaining, “Once they [seniors] see the studio work, they really love it because of the manipulation of light.”